Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From December 25th, 2011 Bulletin)

“Let us go then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”
 One shepherd to another, Luke 2:15

     Blessed and Merry Christmas to all! It is a beautiful time to be together to worship our New-born King. Has He taken root in your heart this season yet? The holidays can be so stressful, given the traffic, shopping and festivities. It is easy to lose our peace in the midst of so much activity. Guerric of Igny writes:
If in the depths of your soul you were to keep a quiet silence, the all-powerful Word would follow from the Father’s throne secretly into you. Happy then is the person who has so fled the world’s tumult, who has so withdrawn into the solitude and secrecy of interior peace, that he can hear not only the Voice of the Word, but the Word himself: not John but Jesus.

     “Quiet silence”, “Sacred Silence”, “Silent Night”, the words seem easy to sing, consoling to consider, but when can they happen? I’m reminded of a riddle from the movie, Life is Beautiful: “If you say my name, I disappear.” Of course “Silence”, once said, is no longer present. Even in writing about it, I delay finding it. We need silence, we need inactivity, we need, like the Blessed Virgin, for the Holy Spirit to overshadow us in a moment of silence and awe.
     I recommend breathing to start. Last week I wrote about the Jesus Prayer. Breathing in the Sacred and Powerful Name of Jesus is one of the best ways to bring silence and peace to the soul. Mere contact with His Name is enough for the soul to be quieted, like a lamb that at once feels safe in its Shepherd’s arms. Let Him draw you near to His Heart, a Heart full of goodness and love for you. Writing about it makes me want to stop and take that five minutes of the Jesus Prayer right now…I invite you to do the same….

Lord Jesus Christ, (Son of God and Son of Mary), have mercy on me, a sinner.

…five minutes is not enough. I am at least ready for a nap! I hope you can take quality time for prayer during this Christmas Season. Remember as Catholics we have a whole Season to celebrate that lasts 15 days this year. That is one reason why we are closing our offices from Dec 25th through Jan 2nd. Not only does our Pastoral Team (staff) need a rest, but I think it is important for all of us as Christians to take real extended Sabbath at various times during the year. The Christmas Octave (8 days of Christmas) is a perfect time to start. I encourage all to take time with family and friends; time for prayer; time for rest. Emmanuel, God with us, will be with you.
   
     From all of our Pastoral Team and the Parish Community of St. Stephen the Martyr, have a Blessed Christmas Season.

Incarnation  
by Stephen Wentworth Arndt, Ph.D.

In a thistle-thick field, The sun-baked clay with its break-spade soil
Had a summer-seared yield, And the drought-sky-flouted dry ground foiled all of Israel's trouble and toil.


But the Caretaker saw And tilled that wilderness field with priests
And their ground-breaking law, As the prophets' cry thinned high sin-weeds,
And the kings did their battle with beasts. Then the Husbandman sowed
Pure virgin earth, and the germ took root. When the gracious rain flowed
On the love-lit plot, it shot out shoots, And it budded forth, bearing its fruit.


Now the fruit of our womb Is blest grain bread and a vine grape wine
From the Passover room; O incarnate Lord, O Christ divine, Make the fruits of your flesh and blood mine!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From December 18th, 2011 Bulletin)

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. 
May it be done to me according to your word.”


As we live this last week of Advent, let us ask that this Christmas bring a new receptivity to Jesus’ presence in our lives. Our Advent and Christmas liturgies are not meant to be mere external reminders of an historical event. They are meant to be a real entrance into God’s active covenant with His people. This again is not a reality out there, in all the members of the Church outside of myself, it is a personal participation in the Incarnation of God made flesh. May our final preparation for Christmas make room for the Christ Child within us, in our relationships and in the way we use the great gift of time.

Del Verbo Divino
The Virgin,
weighed with the Word of God
Comes down the road;
If only you'll shelter her.
- St. John of the Cross

Receptivity is one of the most important attributes of Christian growth. If we are full of ourselves, complacent in our spiritual state, there is not much room for God. Since God is perfect love, in relation with Him, we naturally realize our deficiencies. Love, it is said, conforms itself to its Beloved. If we love God, then we will want to be like Him. Are we receptive to this during the week before Christmas? Can we slow down enough to love? Our Lady gives us the supreme example of receptivity. She was ready, open and welcoming to the Word of God, Jesus the Christ.

Annunciation: The Words of the Angel   
You are no closer to God than any of us;
We all live far and wide.
But it’s wonderful how your hands
Have been sanctified.
They don’t find a match in other women’s,
So brilliant from beneath their sleeves:
I am the day, I am the dew,
But you are tree.

I am rather tired now, my journey was long,
Forgive that I forgot
That he, who sat in gilded garb
Like a ray of light,
Sends news to you, you quiet one
(this room here startled me).
Look: I am the beginning one,
But you are tree.

I spread my wings apart
And became oddly broad;
Now your little house is flooded
With my coat.

And still, you are so all alone
As neer before, me you hardly see;
Because I am just breath in woods,
But you are tree.

Perhaps it will come about soon
And you will grasp it as if in a dream.
Blessings to you, my soul perceives
You are ready and ripe to receive.
You are a great and lofty gate
And about to open up.
You are my song’s most beloved ear.
I feel there disappears and seeps
Into you my word.

That’s how I came and completed
Your dream among a thousand and one.
And with blinding eyes God looked at me…

But you are tree.

- Rainer Maria Rilke (from Magnificat Missalette)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From December 11th, 2011 Bulletin)

Pray without ceasing  - 1 Thess. 5:17
This is the whole verse in Thessalonians. Our readings focus on an increased urgency for the sanctification of each one of us. The Gospel of John repeats some of what we heard from Mark last week, and yet it is expanded and elaborates on who exactly this John is and how he is related to the Christ who is imminent. Isaiah writes of the Spirit anointing one who will bring Good News to the poor and to heal the brokenhearted. Paul prays that "…the God of peace make you perfectly holy…" The message is, I think, start today, start now.

One of the most important aspects of holiness is prayer. We must pray in order to become holy. It is like breathing for the body. We need spiritual oxygen to transform our souls in right-thinking and right-practice (Orthodoxy and orthopraxis). St. Paul writes to the Philippians "have this mind within you" and then goes on to describe the humble mind of Christ. Prayer is a vehicle whereby God plants His thoughts within us.

Advent for Christians is also the peak season for retail commerce. Parties and festivities and plays and shopping all add up to make it one of the busiest times of the year as well. This can crush the spirit of prayer. We need to breathe the silence and sweetness of the season. Preparation in nature often happens in secret and solitude. So it is in the Spirit, we need time alone to think, meditate and pray. I encourage you to take time this Advent to prepare the way of the Lord in your hearts. I offer the simple Jesus Prayer, something one can even say at the Mall!


Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Breathe in on the first part "Lord Jesus Christ", letting the name of Jesus inebriate your soul. Breathe out on the second part, letting go of all sin, all worry. If one took 5 minutes a day for this prayer, I believe it could transform our world. Will you join me today in doing this every day before Christmas? Let us pray for one another, that our faithful God will continue to accomplish His work within us.


Giving Opportunity in Bethlehem
We were not able to have Khaled Jaraysa here this fall with his Bethlehem crafts, but one can still help in the middle east by supporting the Children of Peace. I, with other pilgrims from St. Stephens, were able to visit the Children of Peace project in Beit Seor, or better known from the Bible, the Shepherd’s Field, where the angels announced the birth of Christ. They provide funding for the Holy Child Program which serves 33 children and their families traumatized by the strife in the area.

They recently lost their free lunch program which was providing much needed nutrition. It is documented that children in this region are known to be deficient in vitamin A, B12, and iron, resulting in vision problems, anemia, and other health-related issues. It takes only $1.50 a day to provide a hot lunch for a child in the program. Can you provide for a day of lunches for the school? That would be $49.50. Could you provide for one child for a month? That would be $45. How simple, yet such a difference.

See the Children of Peace website for more information. You can use their website for donations.
  Their first goal is to raise $4000 by December 31st. Children of Peace is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to supporting programs that serve traumatized children and their families regardless of race, religion or cultural background.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From December4th, 2011 Bulletin)

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths”
So much of our part in the spiritual life is about preparation. It is our ‘Yes’ to grace that opens the door to God’s action in our life. He sends something called prevenient grace, the grace that comes before a grace. Or as St. Thérèse loved to say, “All is grace.” The Scripture also says, “It is by your light that we see your light.” We are dependent on God’s grace to receive more grace, more life from our God who is love.
The time of Advent is meant as a preparation for the Incarnation of the Christ. Of course He has already come, so what does it mean today in 2011? Last week our readings pointed to Jesus’ Second Coming, the Parousia, at the end of time. He says, “Watch” four times it that Gospel. There is something more proximate, however, that we ought to consider. He comes again each Sunday when we attend Mass. Have we prepared by reading the readings, and as I suggested in last week’s column, to read the new texts of the Mass?

This would be a beautiful practice for Advent: Take Sunday’s readings, but read them each day as a meditation. It may be best to choose just one of the readings (Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament, or Gospel). Putting Sunday at the middle of the week, we can prepare for Sunday Mass by reading the passage of our choice Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Then to follow up, to put the Word into action, read it again Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I believe it will come alive in a brand new way. Don’t forget to speak to the Lord about what you are reading, and a great dialogue of love will take place.

Oldest Parishioner Dies Fraser MacDonell died a week ago at the age of 101 years old. We had thought he had just turned 100 this summer, but after checking his birth certificate, his grandchildren found that he was born in 1910, in Canada. I believe that would have made him our oldest parishioner. (Jay Hyatt’s father is turning 101 shortly). If you know of someone older, please let me know. Fraser was a parishioner for many years with his wife, who preceded him in death by a few years. He used to come to Saturday evening Mass, sitting on the choir side. His grandsons drove him once they had wrestled his driver’s license away from him.

He worked in real estate, including doing assessments for houses purchased by the government when I-5 was built. He met Richard Nixon and other dignitaries during his lifetime. Fraser was wounded in the stomach by machine gun fire during WWII while serving in the Philippines. He survived an auto accident, where after the crash, the steering wheel remained firmly in his hands, but had broken off from the column! (He was a strong man.) He was related by marriage to Simon Fraser (1776-1862), explorer and fur trader of Canadian fame, who married into the MacDonell clan. Born in 1910, Fraser was not far removed from them and gained the explorer’s name. May God bless Fraser’s soul and all the souls of the faithful departed. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

A Prayer for Advent
O Lord, our early fathers in the faith waited for you as for the dawn. You will come at the end of time, when it pleases you, and when all will be in readiness for the last judgment. What have you still to give me, and what will be my eternal destiny? …
You will give me pardon and also perseverance, that sublime gift which is hidden like a pearl beneath the bitterness of death and is the seal of liberation for your elect. I wait for it, I should prepare myself better for it and live in this blessed anticipation.

My God, on account of your definite coming, suppress in me the sin which hinders your work, destroy all that impedes it, triumph over every weakness and come, at the hour you choose, like a long-desired master.

Words from Fr Ed (From November 27th 2011 Bulletin)

…what I say to you I say to all: Watch.
Our new liturgical year, along with the New Roman Missal translation, has arrived. We have been watching and preparing for this for over a year.  The process of translating the texts has taken over 10 years. It is a great opportunity to reexamine our disposition towards the Mass and our preparedness for the graces God has for each one of us at every Mass we attend.

Normally, I would say that the best way to prepare for Sunday Mass is to read the readings beforehand. That is probably still the case, but this year, as we implement the New Roman Missal, perhaps it would be good to spend time reading the new translations, prayers and texts of the Mass. Even the opening greeting deserves meditation, as the assembly response changes from “And also with you” to “And with your spirit”.

Do we come to Mass with the intention of blessing one another?  Do we recognize the Divine character, the Divine Spirit at work in the Mass?  Do we recognize the Spirit of Christ present in the priest, the assembly, the Scriptures, and especially Holy Communion? Edward Sri writes on this new response:

By responding, "And with your spirit," we acknowledge the Spirit's activity through the priest during the sacred Liturgy. We are referring to the "spirit" of the priest, the very core of his being, where he has been ordained to offer the sacrifice of the Mass. Indeed, we are acknowledging that since God works through the priest who is offering the Mass, ultimately it is

Jesus Christ who is the head of the community gathered for the Liturgy, and it is his Spirit who is the primary actor in the Liturgy, regardless who the particular priest celebrating Mass may be.
May we come to know the Holy Spirit, gift of the Father and His Son, at work in the Mass, the Holy Liturgy of our God.

Ecclesiastes 9:9+
I wanted to include the full account of Travis Wood and his encounter with Scripture and the Spirit we believe inspired it:

Here is an account of what happened days after my brother-in-law, David Strong, and nephew, Bridger Strong, were killed in a horrible car accident.

I had barely opened a Bible in the last 20 plus years.  Although I am a Christian, I haven't been one in the practice I need to be. I woke early in the morning at the hotel we were staying at a day after we buried both bodies.  As I awoke, I immediately had names of Books from the Bible running through my head.  It felt as if someone was communicating with me.  (I felt silly. I thought maybe I was trying to contrive something after the horrible accident.)  Finally, a book settled in my mind - Ecclesiastes; then a chapter presented itself - chapter 9.  Things then became a little fuzzy, and verse 12 came to mind, but it was not as clear.

I was curious at this point and opened the drawer next to me from the night stand. I pulled out the Bible and wanted to check the verse out.  I searched the Bible and couldn't find the book in the Bible.  I just decided that Ecclesiastes must not even be a book in the Bible, and that I'd contrived the entire thing to somehow make myself feel better.  I went back to bed. 

I awoke again around 8 a.m. and couldn't stop thinking about "The Message" I had received. My wife was in the bathroom getting ready for the day, and I yelled into her to see if Ecclesiastes was a book in the Bible.  She responded with a chuckle and some concern that I wasn't sure if it was a Book in the Bible.  She told me that of course it was a Book in the Bible and told me the correct pronunciation.  Consequently, I went back to the Bible and searched for it. 

After several minutes I located the Book in the Bible and went to chapter 9, verse 12.  Chapter 9, verse 12 read:  Moreover, man does not know his time;  etc.  I thought, ‘Wow, how fitting. David was just 45 years old and Bridger was just 9 years old."

Later that day, we arrived at my sister's home.  I couldn't wait to tell her the odd thing that had happened that morning.  After explaining to her what happened, but not really knowing the entire verse, Parrish (my sister) was intrigued and wanted to read the entire verse.  She walked me over to David's Bible.  I'd never been in her house or seen David's Bible in my life.  The string David used to mark his Bible had a spot marked in the Bible - Ecclesiastes, Chapter 9. He had several rows of verse underlined, however, not verse 12. One row was underlined twice.  It was verse 9 and read, "Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun."

We were both amazed that, "The Message", I received was the exact same spot that David had marked and last read in his Bible.  What are the odds? Well, they were 100% that day. It impacted us on several levels. It reinforced our belief in the Holy Spirit; comforted us; and gave both of us several messages to what this really meant.  As I tell this story to others, I realize that this story has had different meanings to them as well. Sometimes, you can chalk things up to the coincidences of life. For me, this was more than a coincidence.  It was a Message from the Lord that has multiple meanings in Parrish's life, my life, and the lives of the others who hear it. - Travis Wood

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From November 20th, 2011 Bulletin)

…you did it to me.
We conclude our liturgical year today with the Solemnity of Christ the King. It might seem strange that the Church would choose this Gospel of Christ’s radical identification with the poor, the prisoner, and the stranger. Wouldn’t we expect something more glorious, more triumphant? Wouldn’t we recognize his kingship better in a different package? Who is this starving, naked, imprisoned king?

The Bible quotes God saying, “Your ways are not my ways, your understanding is not my understanding.” We can, in dealing with God, expect the unexpected. His Kingship, while supreme, is not like any other kingship. It is bound to exhibit values that far transcend earthly kings and leaders that we have experienced in the past. His Kingship is based on values that last forever.

No matter what our level of faith in God, He asks us to respond to that faith with love. True faith lives itself out in good works that care for our neighbor’s well being. We cannot, by calling ourselves Catholic Christian believers, remain an island unto ourselves. Charity must be born in us, and like the Blessed Virgin in generosity, be given to the world. Otherwise, it dies within us, and we will be counted among the
goats.

Changes in the Liturgy Next Week!
Next weekend, November 26 and 27, we begin to use the new English translation of the Roman Missal. We have been using the same translation for practically 40 years, so it is a significant event in our lives as English-speaking Catholics. We plan to have cards in the pews detailing the specific changes this weekend (November 19 and 20). For the congregational responses, there aren’t many major changes in
my opinion. If you can change “And also with you” to “And with your spirit”, you already have three of the 12 parts that are changing. We’ve already been singing several of the new translations, including the Gloria, the Sanctus (Holy), and the Mystery of Faith (Memorial Acclamation). That leaves only six new parts for you to learn, and one of them is simply adding the word “O” to our Gospel dialogue after the
Priest or Deacon says, “A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John”. You will now say, “Glory to You, O Lord.”

Though these changes may be simple, they are profound in their ability to form us as Christians. As I said a few weeks ago in this column, ‘lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi’, which means, how we pray ,affects how we believe, which, in turn, affects how we live. While it may be a little unsettling to have to change our words, I believe that these new words will help us grow closer to the God we are worshiping.
It is also an opportunity to realize that how we pray is also affected by our disposition and attitude when we pray. May all of us be prepared with open hearts and minds to receive God’s constant gift of love, especially through our Holy Liturgy.

It’s About Time
Time has many names such as the name given for the time planet earth circles the sun, another by a single rotation. There are many more names for shorter periods of time; we have also given time numbers. Although we cannot see or feel time, we have learned how to measure it. There are many types of time - a good time; a bad time; a short time; and a long time. We have a daytime, and we have a nighttime. We have free time, and we have jail time. We are given time, and it is taken away. Sometimes we are short of time, other times, we have time to waste. We have a time to laugh; we have a time to cry. We have a time to live and a time to die. When time has no importance, we call it anytime. We have much knowledge about old times and present times, but we know very little about time that has yet to arrive. Through it all, time still passes on at its own speed, unhampered by humans. Remember, when we are born, we are given a
number in time, and whether it be a long time or a short time, make the best of it. - Harry Gores, parishioner

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From November 13th, 2011 Bulletin)

“Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

These are the words we hope to hear when we must give an account for how we have governed our lives.  Have we invested in the things of God?  Have we sought first the kingdom?  The parable of the talents gives us an analogy of the final judgment as we approach the end of the liturgical year.  We must give an account some day.  Why not start today?

Mahatma Gandhi was a disciplined man.  He rose at 3:30am for prayerful reading, then at 4:30 went for a one-hour walk.  His day proceeded from one discipline to another until finally, before he retired he would take account of his finan-cial transactions that day; what he had taken in and what he had spent.  He required this of every organization that he was in charge of.  He noted in his autobiography, “The Story of My Experiments with Truth”, that he never knew anyone who practiced this habit of daily financial accountability who was in debt.

Perhaps we can apply this to the spiritual life.  Do we take account of our exchange with God today; what we have given and what we have received?  If we are honest we will see how abundantly we have received.  It can make our small contributions and anxieties seem paltry and insignificant.  And yet we have a responsibility for little things.  As our Gospel says, “Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.”

One of the earthly realities that we all face is financial responsibility.  Sure, it would be easier to return to Eden and lounge in the garden for all eternity. But the garden is closed to us since the fall of Adam and Eve.  Now we can only reenter through the wounds of Christ. He restores our lost innocence and brings an interior freedom that helps put creature concerns in order.  Through Christ we are now asked to consider what we are called to give to our parish over the coming year.

I look forward to the challenge of pushing myself beyond where I may have been before, exercising those muscles of faith and trust in God.  Of course, I don’t have natural children that depend on me.  Families must be prudent and prayerfully ask the Lord what is possible given your financial demands.  As our Old Testament reading said last week, ask for wisdom, for “…she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her.”  I thank you for taking time to ask the Lord what you can give to His work through St. Stephen the Martyr Church.  He will reward you accordingly.

“Courageous” Movie Review, Pt. II
Be ready to take a remarkable journey into the lives of five men and their families.  It is an incredible tapestry of God’s hand connecting them all in extraordinary circumstances.  If you want to hear profanity, view sex, or see violence, stay home. 

What you will see and experience is a story of beautiful miracles unfolding amidst a raw aching tragedy that becomes the catalyst for God’s grace and love to pour over all involved.  Deep sadness and grief soon find company with many unexpected outcomes - redemption of choices made in the past; forgiveness that has taken a lifetime; trust and integrity upheld; accountability to oneself; and sadly, even betrayal all come together in this powerful fraternity of brotherhood.  As many tears flowed from me, I was happy to experience well-timed and clever humor that is sprinkled throughout this rich opus.

“Courageous" made me think of a recent homily- God’s loving invitation to us, “Are you all in?”  This is a MUST SEE movie. To all wise and spirit filled women, young and old alike, take heart.  The movie does focus on this unique brotherhood, but the role of each female character plays a crucial part in the symphony that plays out.  Evangelization of our faith must begin in our own homes.  “Courageous” is God’s sweet invitation to examine, sharpen and embrace what we each call family, with Jesus Christ as the glorious centerpiece of it all.
Gift yourself and your family.  Make time to experience “Courageous”.

Why do Catholics pray to Mary?
Episode Four of Fr. Barron’s Catholicism Series will focus on the Blessed Virgin.  Her role and prominence in the Catholic Church is a challenge for some.  We consider her a blessing and as the Holy Spirit put on the lips of Mary herself, “All generations will call me blessed.”  For good reason, not so much because of her physical motherhood of Christ, but because her heart and mind were in total communion with Him and in service of His mission.  Please come and witness the rich teaching of the Church on the Mother of God.  Alternate showings will occur on Wednesdays during the day.  Please see the bulletin and narthex advertising for more details.

Reasons for the Changes in the Liturgy
Unity and continuity – that our sacrifice today may be an extension of the ancient foundations of our faith – has continued to be of utmost importance to the Church. The unity of Christians was a primary concern of Pope John Paul II and also of Pope Benedict XVI. While we don’t all worship in one language as we did prior to Vatican II, we continually strive for the language we do use to faithfully echo the prayers our ancestors passed on as a foundation of the Mass. The Vatican’s instruction on the translation of the liturgy states, “Certain expressions that belong to the heritage of the whole or of a great part of the ancient Church... are to be respected by a translation that is as literal as possible.”  In previous translations, some of our expressions did not accurately represent the meaning of the Latin. The new English translation of the Roman Missal aims to recover that meaning – to unite more closely the words we use during the celebration of the liturgy with those that are, and have been, spoken in faith throughout all the world. Thus, we can envision one glorious and universal chorus, offering a united prayer to God our almighty Father.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From November 6th, 2011 Bulletin)

…the wise (virgins) brought flasks of oil with their lamps.

Flasks of oil were critical for these virgins to make it into the wedding, a symbol of the heavenly banquet. St. Augustine speaks of charity as the oil that endures forever.  We can compare the lamps to the light of faith, but ‘faith alone’ is insufficient for salvation.  As St. James says, “…faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) We must act on the faith that we profess.  We must take the love of God, poured into our hearts through the Eucharist, and invest in real works of charity during the week.  This is what these prudent virgins have done. They planned ahead for the banquet.  We too must plan ahead by being alert today to the opportunity to love.

New Roman Missal
On the First Sunday of Advent, November 27th, we will be using the new translation of the Roman Missal. This is the third edition since the mandate of Vatican II (1962 – 1965) to renew the liturgy.  As we explained last week, the core beliefs and substance of the Mass will not change. The new translation, however, has changed some of the language in order to be more faithful to the universal Latin translation.  Typically, these changes are much closer to the Scriptures connected to the Mass. They also are closer to the Spanish, Italian, and French translations that have always been closer to the Latin. This should help foster a greater sense of unity in the Church.

There is a Latin phrase, lex orandi, lex credendi, which translate to “How we pray is how we believe”.  This means that the structure, which includes the language, of our prayer is formative.  How we pray affects the formation of our faith.  St. Paul put this truth as “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”  When we worship, we are immersed in the Words of God as we attempt to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.  The truth of lex orandi, lex credendi is sometimes expanded to include lex vivendi, "how we live".  How we pray affects how we believe; how we believe affects how we live. Therefore, completing the equation, how we pray affects how we live. The new translation is meant to bring our lives into a greater conformity with the Word of God.

As our New Testament reading said this past week, “And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.” (1 Thess 2)  I’m grateful for all the ways that God is powerfully at work here at St. Stephens.  Receiving this new translation will increase the life of grace within us.  I hope to take quality time during the Mass itself in order to more deeply explain why we do certain things during the Mass and why the changes make good sense.  Please join me in praying for a successful implementation of the New Roman Missal.

“Courageous”
Here is a parishioner’s experience of the movie “Courageous”, which I recommend especially to men, but here is a woman’s perspective.  This is a brief summary of Beth’s comments.  If possible, I’ll include the full review next week:

"I received a powerful call last weekend. A “wake up” call that is. The movie is called “Courageous”.  This is a MUST SEE movie. To  all wise and spirit filled women, young and old alike…take heart.
Evangelization of our faith must begin in our own homes. “Courageous” is God’s sweet invitation to examine… sharpen…  and embrace what we each call family, with Jesus Christ as the glorious centerpiece of it all. 

Gift yourself and your family.  Make time to experience “Courageous”.  Take a hanky (or two!), and if this movie does not move your  heart and mind… the buttered popcorn is on me.” ~ Beth Motola

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From October 30th, 2011 Bulletin)

…whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

     Humility runs contrary to our current culture of self-aggrandizement.  “American Idol” is just one expression of the media-driven climate that pervades our daily life. This is not to say that I have anything against a talent show. We even had a young man from our local community make it high into the competition recently. He has an extraordinary voice and deserved to be there. He also has a great story that shows God’s blessing on his life. But the word “Idol” betrays a danger that exists in today’s world. Do we idolize people for their talents or social status?

     We must work against the pride apparent in our society and even in our Church. Pride has no place here. St. Benedict writes about the need for humility in his Rule:

The first degree of humility is obedience without delay. This is the virtue of those who hold nothing dearer to them than Christ; who, because of the holy service they have professed, and the fear of hell, and the glory of life everlasting, as soon as anything has been ordered by the Superior, receive it as a divine command and cannot suffer any delay in executing it. Of these the Lord says, "As soon as he heard, he obeyed Me" (Ps. 17[18]:45). And again to teachers He says, "He who hears you, hears Me" (Luke 10:16).

Remember Philippians 2, “He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Let us pursue this great virtue of humility. It conquers all sin.
Part III – Archbishop Sartain’s Homily at the Red Mass in Washington, D.C.

     Try as I might to wrap my mind and heart around the image that Jesus presents in the gospel passage we have just heard, I am always utterly astounded and speechless when I picture it:


Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them (Luke 12:37).

     The Lord Jesus, having left us “in charge” until his return, will himself return – but still a servant, ever a servant, with perfect love and unimaginable humility – and will serve us at table. It could not be otherwise for the One who “came to serve” and to “give his life as a ransom.” Likewise, it cannot be otherwise for us who are his disciples. St. Augustine writes,

...the Christ who is preached throughout the world is not Christ adorned with an earthly crown, nor Christ rich in earthly treasures, but Christ crucified... Thus, at length, the pride of this world was convinced that, even among the things of this world, there is nothing more powerful than the humility of God (see Epistle 232:5, 6).

     In the end, it is in our relationship with the Lord that we find the spiritual health that reveals and makes possible true balance, true integrity. We are speaking here not of a formula, and certainly not of self-improvement: we are speaking instead of lives lived in God, for others. It is God who created us who makes us complete, and it is a life lived in humble union with the servant-Savior that literally does the most good.

     A sound soul in a sound body makes for a balanced life, a life of integrity. And such sound, integrally healthy lives given to public service lift up and transform society. And consciously committed lives of discipleship reveal the living, saving presence of the humble Savior who gives himself as food to those who are his own. It is his love, his sacrifice which sets the standard for every life of humble service – and thus it is a living relationship with him that integrates our lives and makes them truly healthy. That is what we call holiness.

     My sisters and brothers, we who are here this day know that it is from God that we come and toward God that we are headed. Each of us, according to the calling given us, has been put “in charge” of the Lord’s vineyard. The vineyard is his, we are his, and those we serve are his. And we pray that we will be humble servants like him, who seek to do only his good. It is that for which we were made – and it is that for which we are sent into the world. Amen.

Movie Recommendation: “Courageous”
www.courageousthemovie.com

     I was privileged to join a parishioner and his son this last week in watching the movie, “Courageous”, which is about four policemen grappling with their roles as fathers and men. It was powerfully presented and quite convicting for someone in the role as father. I couldn’t help but want all men to see this movie, including all priests and seminarians training to be spiritual fathers. The movie calls us men to take responsibility for protecting and serving the women and children around us. It calls men to hold other men accountable to one another for this vocation. I hope you can attend a showing. I viewed it at the Landing in Renton. May God bless all fathers with a renewed vision for their role and the courage to carry it out.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From October 23rd, 2011 Bulletin)

…with all your heart

       “Dishes?!”, Cardinal George exclaimed, “I’m not talking about dishes!” The Cardinal of Chicago was meeting with some of my classmates at seminary and had broached the topic of manual labor. He told the group that he was thinking that it might be good for them to be doing some manual labor around the seminary grounds. At this suggestion one classmate said, “But Cardinal George, we do dishes once a month in the refectory.” The Cardinal’s head snapped in the seminarian’s direction, with his great Roman nose protruding and bald head shining, like an eagle ready to pounce.

        “Dishes?!” he shouted, angry at such a puny offering. “I’m talking about chopping wood and working up a sweat.” The seminarian caught the fullness of the cardinal’s rebuke. Cardinal George wanted men to be giving more of themselves, even the strength of their bodies. The command we hear from Jesus in today’s gospel speaks of the fullness of love we owe to God, that is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” While Matthew doesn’t include ‘strength’ in this quote, Mark and Luke do. It’s part of our offering to God. We are body and soul, and owe God everything.

       This past week’s gospel asks us to render unto God what is God’s. Shouldn’t we offer Him everything? The notion that 5% belongs to God as we tithe our finances can obscure the reality that everything comes from Him and a full Christian life offers everything back. Not that He doesn’t want us to spend money on ourselves; but if our whole self is offered to God, then even what we spend on ourselves will more likely be spent for His glory, and not our own. To love God with all of our heart would mean giving over all areas of life that ought to belong to Him. Are we doing something more worthwhile with our lives than offering just the minimum?


Red Mass, Part II (of III): Archbishop Sartain’s Homily for Members of the Supreme Court

       …The Desert Father Poemen said, “Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.”
       St. Paul recognized that Christian freedom is not only freedom “from” the constraints of sin but freedom “for” positive striving for fulfillment in Christ, a natural and critical outgrowth of faith and one’s desire to live life to the full, peacefully and integrally.

       He also knew that at the heart of the Gospel is a mandate which both draws challengingly on the deepest resources of human freedom and opens up for the individual and for society the most complete fulfillment possible: and that is the spirit of loving self-giving, made manifest in acts – in lives – of total sacrifice.

       As human persons we are not fully alive – even if we follow a balanced, healthy lifestyle and nourish ourselves with all that is good and beautiful in culture – unless we live for something beyond ourselves, unless we give ourselves to Someone beyond ourselves. It was that spirit, that stance, in Solomon which caught God’s eye:

Because you have not asked for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right – I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you (1 Kings 3:11-12).

       Solomon desired to use his gifts for others – literally for the good of his people, who were, after all, God’s people – and thus for the purpose for which God gives every one of his gifts. It is love which makes the using of one’s gifts perfect; it is love which makes the gift of oneself beautiful in the eyes of God; it is love which best manifests the presence of God in our personal and public lives. This love is not just altruism. Rather, it is conscious participation in the sacrificial love of Christ, which the Christian disciple realizes he or she is called to communicate and proclaim – in everything.

       It is impossible to overstate the importance of the perfection and integration which self-forgetfulness, generosity, and humility bring to a Christian’s life of service. Why? Because these virtues manifest our desire not just to do well, but to do the good and to deliberately manifest in our lives the One Who Is Good. We can barely grasp the extraordinary depth of God’s humility, the infinity of his love, and the mind-boggling truth that he has invited us to share in his very life and in his care for his people.


For the full account of the Red Mass see: http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2011/10/at-dc-red-mass-call-to-do-good.html

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Words from Fr. Ed (from October 16th, 2011 bulletin)

 “…give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

     This classic phrase of Jesus calls us to consider what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God. Caesar represents the secular, temporal world which is fading away. God is the world that lasts forever. We do have a responsibility towards the temporal world, to shape it according to God’s kingdom. This is done, however, with one foot in heaven so to speak.

     I suppose I had heard it said before, that when getting on or off a boat, one should have at least one good handhold on the boat or the dock, and never be caught in between. I learned the hard way when fishing with a friend. He was pulling into a dock and I was preparing to jump to it. As we approached a boat in front of us, he shifted the engine into reverse rather than neutral. The abrupt change of direction threw me straight off the bow into the boat and water in front of us. So much for pride!

     We have a secure place from which we can hang on to God. It’s called a ‘state of grace’. Through prayer, the sacraments, and a life of charity, we are assured of the grace from God to lead a life that arrives at heaven. What a great gift, but not to be taken for granted. Especially as our secular world chooses values contrary to the Gospel, we must ‘swim upstream’ like our northwest salmon, making real decisions in favor of the ways of God. This takes grace. It takes daily prayer and a conscious effort to grow in our relationship of love with God and neighbor. This life of grace is in fact what sanctifies the world. Let us continue on this path of holiness with Christ at our head, leading us home to the Father.

Red Mass

     Every year in Washington, D.C., before another session of the Supreme Court, a ‘Red’ Mass is offered, invoking the Holy Spirit. This year the guest homilist was none other than our own Archbishop Sartain. I include Part I of his homily as a sample of one way we can sanctify our world:
     When I bought my first pair of Asics running shoes many years ago, I noticed a familiar Latin maxim on the box – “Anima sana in corpore sano” – and soon realized much to my amazement that the name “Asics” is in fact an acronym for that very maxim. It is a variation on “Mens sana in corpore sano,” usually translated, “A sound mind in a sound body.”

     The Roman poet and satirist Juvenalis (55-127 A.D.) is usually credited with the saying, and his point is a good one. People of every age have championed the value of a healthy body, even if notions of health and beauty have varied greatly through the centuries. The body/mind connection is a reminder that we are whole persons, that one aspect of living directly affects the others. Physical, intellectual, and psychological health go hand-in-hand. We live more serenely, think more clearly and work more energetically when we take care of our bodies – when we literally put our Asics to use.

     It is interesting that Asics chose “anima” over “mens” for its corporate slogan, because while “mens” usually referred to the mind in its intellectual aspects, “anima” referred to the more encompassing “vital principal” of life, the “breath of life,” one’s “heart,” and one’s overall sense of well-being. In fact, “anima” is the word used for “soul” in the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible, in Church writings and in the liturgy.

     Juvenalis was not a Christian, but his famous maxim certainly lends itself to an essential Christian application: “A sound soul in a sound body.” We do well to remember that there is something deep within, something all-encompassing and literally life-giving, the very life-principle that makes the body human, which begs for attention, discipline and nourishment: our soul.

     Juvenalis was just a kid as St. Paul was drawing near his martyr’s death, but Paul was keenly aware of the influence of  comparable writers and thinkers in Greco-Roman culture. They shaped in part the environment into which the Lord sent him to preach the gospel, and it was critical to his mission to be familiar with them. Paul was a master of observation when it came to culture, law, language, philosophy – and yes, athletics – and put to work his highly-honed skills when framing the proclamation of the Christian message.

     He borrowed from Stoic thought to exhort the Christian community in the Roman colony of Philippi to live a life of integrity:

“...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philppians 4:8).

     A sound, healthy soul will be truly nourished only by the good and the beautiful, the noble and the pure. A Christian cannot live a life of integrity or peace when wittingly or unwittingly stuffing oneself with or indifferently absorbing the superficial and the fleeting. Moreover, one cannot hope to be healthy or to do well in one area of life when the rest of life is malnourished. The Desert Father Poemen said, “Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Words from Fr. Ed (from October 9th, 2011)

 “The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come.”

     If you are reading this you are probably going to Mass every Sunday. “The feast is ready”, you have been invited, and you have said ‘Yes’ to Our Lord. This ‘Yes’ that you have said by being committed to Sunday Mass is no small thing. Jesus said in the Gospel of John, “I am the living bread come down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (Jn 6:51) Receiving Jesus every week is no less than eternal life.

     “The week”, if we look at the creation story, is see a symbol of all creation. We read in the first few chapters of Genesis that God prepared a creation for humanity. Within the gift of humanity, we see man and woman. We even see the aspect of rest, Sabbath, where God, resting from His works calls to humanity to rest in Him. He is our rest, and this, not just once per week, but for all eternity.

     Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ, is rest for our souls. As I quoted Augustine last week, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Why? Because “God is love” and we were made for love. Does not human love give us some tremendous sense of rest, of peace, even exhilaration? When we love we achieve the purpose of our existence. In a sense, we have arrived at our goal. There is at least a subconscious sense of ultimate accomplishment.
    
     One thing I love about manual labor, such as gardening, is that we can see the result of our work. Spiritual work as a priest can be less tangible or concrete in a physical sense. But the spiritual work that we are all called to is more permanent than any gardening. In fact, it is a return to the Garden of Paradise, or even better, an entry into the New Paradise of the New Jerusalem. We are elevated by the Redemption wrought in Christ Jesus. That’s why we can sing at the Easter Vigil, “O happy fault of Adam…”
    
     This Sunday, let yourself rest in Him. Be at peace. You have received Jesus, the summit of all our desires, the healing for all our wounds, the satisfaction for all our sins.

Saturday, October 15th: Feast of St. Teresa of Avila

     I cannot help but comment on this mother of mine, St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582). We just celebrated the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897), otherwise known as the Little Flower. Thus we call St. Teresa the ‘Great Teresa’ to distinguish between these two Discalced Carmelites. St. Teresa was the foundress of the great renewal of the Carmelite Order, which began in 1214 on Mt. Carmel in Israel by crusaders who wanted to remain in the Holy Land and lead lives of prayer. They were hermits gathered around a common chapel.
           
     When these brothers migrated to Europe, they soon lost their eremitical (related to hermits) roots. Gathering in larger monasteries of both men and women, they began to mitigate, soften, the primitive rule of life for hermits that they had originally inherited. St. Teresa felt the impulse to return to a more austere form of life with greater solitude and silence included in their day, so she founded new and smaller Carmelite monasteries of women, and with the help of St. John of the Cross, friaries of priests and brothers.
    
     St. Teresa was primarily a woman of prayer. Her writings on the mystical life have earned her the title, “Doctor of the Church”, one of only three women given that designation along with St. Catherine of Sienna and St. Therese of Lisieux. Her works are priceless to read, beginning with the Way of Perfection, a treatise on the evolution of her first monastery along with a commentary on the Our Father. I include the passage that I use the most when teaching Christian meditation, of which she was a master:

Let us now return to our vocal prayer, so that we may learn to pray in such a way that, without our understanding how, God may give us everything at once: if we do this, as I have said, we shall pray as we ought. As you know, the first things must be examination of conscience, confession of sin and the signing of yourself with the Cross. Then, daughter, as you are alone, you must look for a companion— and who could be a better Companion than the very Master Who taught you the prayer that you are about to say? Imagine that this Lord Himself is at your side and see how lovingly and how humbly He is teaching you— and, believe me, you should stay with so good a Friend for as long as you can before you leave Him. If you become accustomed to having Him at your side, and if He sees that you love Him to be there and are always trying to please Him, you will never be able, as we put it, to send Him away, nor will He ever fail you. He will help you in all your trials and you will have Him everywhere. Do you think it is a small thing to have such a Friend as that beside you? (Chapter 26, found at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/teresa/way.i.xxxii.html)

I close with this beautiful poem of St. Teresa:
Nada te Turbe
(Let Nothing Disturb You)
 
Let nothing disturb you,
nothing frighten you,
all things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience wins all things;
whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From October 2nd, 2011 Bulletin)

The Stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone…

     Jesus, the Son of God, was rejected by the religious authorities of His day. The one who could best build the faith of God’s people was considered an imposter and killed for His claim to be “I AM”, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The chief priests and elders couldn’t fathom a God who is three persons, a community of love; nor could they believe the Son in this Trinity would visit them at that time.

     We, too, can fall short in our faith that God is truly with us and for us. Our lives can be encumbered by beliefs about our world and ourselves that are not true.  We can be bombarded by messages throughout the day that do not reflect the truth of God’s love for us, or of His goodness. As Catholics we must work against this tendency with real commitment to the truth and intentional immersion in it each day.

     The Scriptures are a crucial source of truth to keep us growing closer to God. The Word of God orients us and reorients us in the right direction. One of the skills I learned in Boy Scouts was how to use a map and compass to find a particular location. They would have field trials and contests where our team had to find certain clues and landmarks using a compass and a map.

     I think it’s a fair analogy to call the Bible our map. It shows the general truth about where things are, the reality of how life is and how to negotiate it, where the pitfalls are, and what goals we might want to achieve. If one watches the needle on a compass, it’s fascinating to see it be directed by an invisible magnetic force coming from the North Pole. We also carry within us an inner compass, the Holy Spirit, who, along with the gift of reason, is orientated towards the truth.

     We were made for God. If I may repeat dear Augustine’s timeless truth here, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” He goes on to write:

Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new; late have I loved Thee! For behold Thou wert within me, and I outside; and I sought Thee outside and in my unloveliness fell upon those lovely things that Thou hast made. Thou wert with me and I was not with Thee. I was kept from Thee by those things, yet had they not been in Thee, they would not have been at all. Thou didst call and cry to me and break open my deafness: and Thou didst send forth Thy beams and shone upon me and chased away my blindness: Thou didst breathe fragrance upon me, and I drew in my breath and do now pant for Thee: I tasted Thee, and now hunger and thirst for Thee: Thou didst touch me, and I have burned for Thy peace.  (Confessions, Book Ten, xxvii)

God is within us. He is our cornerstone and provides the compass that directs us to build our lives on Him. Remember the psalm, “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain does the builder labor.” Let us build on Jesus, the cornerstone of our lives.

St. Augustine’s Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.
Amen.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From September 25th, 2011 Bulletin)

Which of the two did the Father’s will?

Jesus tells us that we must do the Father’s will if we are to be saved. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21)  It is imperative that we find out what that will of the Father is for us. This involves knowing the Father.
How do we best get to know this Father whom we cannot see? Jesus is the answer. He said, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:21)  But how do we see Jesus? The Church has given us several sources for the truth about Jesus Christ, including the Scriptures, Tradition and the Magisterium. All of these entail formal revelation. There is also an informal revelation that occurs when we observe the creation around us or our own human nature. All, when evaluated with reason, point to the existence of our loving God.

Just before sitting down to write this, my friend Larry, the owner of the ranch where I am vacationing, showed me the honey trays that he just brought in from his bee boxes. Extraordinary, the beauty of the honey combs that the bees have developed. Perfectly formed and patterned six-sided wax receptacles are laden with liquid honey which the bees then seal over for storage. I remarked to Larry that these were proof of God’s existence. We can see too, from the order in the hive that He is a loving God, taking care of even the needs of bees.

Like these bees, there is an order to our lives if we are willing to accept it. And that is precisely the key, we have free will. The bees cooperate with God by natural instinct. They aren’t sitting around wondering whether they should build six-sided containers or five. No, they simply do what is written into their nature by our orderly and loving God. Our lives tend to be less orderly, depending on our openness to God. I don’t mean to say that this necessitates external order in our lives, though often it is a fruit of interior order. This interior order comes from submitting our will to God’s.

Again, this brings us back around to the question of determining what God’s will is for us, moment to moment. Our vocations give us a lot of clues in the duties and responsibilities that govern our lives. His general will for married people is to raise a family, training children in the faith, supplying the material goods necessary for life. This would mean working in some way that fits our skills and desires. To be more specific, to do a good job of this means being honest and efficient, maintaining competency in one’s field. But we can still be more specific.

Through the day we have a myriad of decisions to make. To know God’s will on each of them is difficult, but we can begin by asking. Jesus said, “Ask, and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you.” (Mt 7:7) We need to take Jesus’ promise seriously and realize its veracity. The way to find out if it is true is to ask with an open heart to know God’s will, and be prepared to hear the answer. He will inform you in one way or another. That may include the difficult trial of not receiving extraordinary explicit signs of His will, but rather growing in faith, which is more important than specific knowledge of a task to be performed.

You may be discouraged by past failures to do God’s will, or you mope about how better your life could be if you had taken a different course.  Never mind, listen to the Gospel this Sunday about the two sons. One refused the father’s will initially, but then “changed his mind”.  We can change our mind too, taking on the mind of Christ, and become, even in an instant, full of God’s glory and grace.

African Mission Presentation on Sunday, October 2 (at 9:45 AM, between the two morning Masses)
St. Stephen’s has had a significant connection to Uganda through the Masaka Children’s Fund started by one of our very own parish-ioners, Emily Bourgeois. This project provides for orphaned children. A video presentation of the December 2010 mission trip to Uganda and Kenya, which included Masaka in their itinerary, will be shown Sunday between Masses. Also included will be info about the mission trip next August!  Do you feel drawn to help the children of Africa? For more info, contact Diane Cooper (425-652-1445 or imdcooper@comcast.net).

Jesus asked, “Which of the two sons did the father’s will?”
Sometimes we hear the Gospel, and it sounds harsh.  Jesus compares the minimal response to those that would allow great sinners greater access to heaven than persons who think of themselves righteous.  However when digging deeper into the reading and the intent of Jesus we find that on the contrary Jesus is seeking a greater commitment from his followers, a more engaged Christian lifestyle that is not just words but also true action. To learn what this might look like, RCIA is designed to bring persons into the Catholic Church, and unpacking the deeper meaning of the Gospels is an integral part of the process. If you would like to share in this process, please contact Cynde Bosshart (253-631-1940 x104 or cyndebosshart@gmail.com).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From September 18th, 2011 Bulletin)

 …to me life is Christ…
                             Philippians 1:21

St. Paul is one who experienced a total eclipse of Christ taking over his life. Jesus is all he could see.  As Paul says elsewhere, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20) This is the goal of Christian life. It runs con-trary to the excess of self-affirmation current in our culture. Self-esteem can be important, but not to the exclusion of the real work of God in the soul. I believe John the Baptist probably had a healthy sense of self-esteem, yet he would say, “I must decrease and He must increase.” Same in our soul, Christ must increase, and we must decrease. 

The first place we carry out this transformation whereby Christ takes over our souls is in the Holy Mass. This does not mean that He steals our will and intellect making us like robots.  No, He actually elevates them to a place of true freedom where we, with faith and reason together, freely give ourselves over to the beautiful gift of love that God has for us. We see this docility in all the saints, but even in Jesus Himself as He surrenders Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus still had free will when He said, “If it be Thy will Father, take this cup from me. But nevertheless, Thy will be done.”
       
This same Jesus waits to give Himself completely to us in a surrender like the one He gave to the Father. Of course, He gave Himself over to death, according to the Father’s will, so that we might be able to receive His sacrifice, even His Body and Blood. When we receive the Holy Eucharist, we receive His self-giving love, His sacrificial love, and we become givers like Him. We can even say that He is giving Himself to others through us along with our own personal sacrifice of self. This is the joy of beatitude, to be poor of spirit, freely becoming Christ for others. Life becomes Christ and the fullness of His life, death and resurrection lives within us.

9/11 Follow-up:

There were several beautiful stories available on the internet related to 9/11 including these:

The story of “14 Cows for America” at: http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/10/remembering-911-an-unexpected-gift-    to-america/; as well as the story of Cheryl McGuinness that I used in my homily at:     www.cbn.com/700club/guests/bios/cheryl_mcguinness_090904.aspx

Let us pray for peace.

What is Catholic Christianity?
“Are you envious because I am generous?”  In our society, fairness is often valued higher than generosity. How fair is it in this gospel for the landowner to compensate equally those who work less than those who labored all day? When we come to God, his favorable response to us is not measured on when we come to him but only that we finally do. All are welcome. This kind of gospel message which might seem obscure in our daily lives is typical food for thought and discussion at RCIA. If you are a non-Catholic who wonders about our Church’s teaching, come and find out what the Catholic Church has to offer.  Contact cyndebosshart@gmail.com or 253-631-1940 x104 for details. 

September 23rd, Memorial of St. Padre Pio

A Prayer for Trust and Confidence in God's Mercy by St. Pio of Pietrelcina
 

O Lord, we ask for a boundless confidence
and trust in Your divine mercy,and the courage to accept
the crosses and sufferings
which bring immense goodness
to our souls and that of Your Church.
Help us to love You
with a pure and contrite heart,
and to humble ourselves beneath Your cross,
as we climb the mountain of holiness,
carrying our cross that leads to heavenly glory.
May we receive You
with great faith and love in Holy Communion,
and allow You to act in us as You desire
for your greater glory.
O Jesus, most adorable Heart
and eternal fountain of Divine Love,
may our prayer find favor before
the Divine Majesty of Your heavenly Father.
           
(From www.padrepiodevotions.org/pioprayers.asp)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From September 11th Bulletin)

…how often must I forgive? 
                        - Mt 18:21

      Our Lord calls us through today’s Gospel to ‘forgive from the heart’. How appropriate given the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Forgiveness does not always come easy, especially where there may be no repentance or sorrow on behalf of the perpetrator. Like all significant tragedies, most of us can remember exactly where we were when the news became known on 9/11/2001. I was in my first week of seminary in Chicago. That morning, I was passing seminarians in the door-way to our dorm building on my way to an 8:30 AM class (CST). As they rushed in, they said that the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane. They were pushing past, anxious to see a television set with news. At first, it sounded like an accident. I proceeded to class asking others what they knew. The gravity of the situation was written on our wise professor’s face. The tall priest, a pillar of spirituality, was shaken. His face foretold a truth that we have since experienced; the world was entering a new level of crisis.

      I almost wrote that the world would be ‘forever changed’, presumably for the worst. But, I don’t believe that any tragedy necessarily changes things forever for the worse. Yes, there is loss, but we have a God who can heal. And yes, there has been an increase of conflict in the world. But, do we necessarily have to be a part of it? Jesus calls Christians to a higher standard than violence and revenge. The bottom line of Jesus’ message is one of mercy. We hear that today as Jesus admonishes Peter to forgive ‘seventy-seven times.’ And this is not sim-ply a perfunctory act of the intellect. Jesus says that we must forgive our brother from the heart. This means real love.

      From what I know of fundamentalist Islam, we’re not going to agree on many important aspects of religion, culture or politics. But, do I love the jihadist despite our radical disagreement? Do I desire his or her good? This is Aquinas’ definition of love, “to will the good of another”. We just heard St. Paul say that the fulfillment of the Law is to ‘love our neighbor’. He does not say whether that is a Christian neighbor, or Jewish, or Muslim, or atheist. Our duty as Christians is to love regardless of another’s different belief, even about what we hold most sacred. If what we hold most sacred, the Eucharistic Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ, has had its intended effect, then we will have the grace to forgive, to love, and bring healing to our broken world.

Save Us, Savior of the World

     We began singing the Memorial Acclamation this past week from the New Translation of the Roman Missal. Thanks to Marijean Heutmaker, John Burton, and all the musicians who helped implement this change. We’ll continue to integrate a few of the sung responses before the First Sunday of Advent (Nov 27th), when all the changes become the norm for Mass. Please take time to read the bulletin inserts that explain the theological thinking and linguistics behind the new texts. I include here a short quote from the new Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose H. Gomez, who writes about the "wonderful gift" the Revised Missal will be for the Church:

        Implementing this new translation means much more than simply memorizing new prayers. I really believe this new  translation offers us a special moment of grace.

        It is a fact of life that anything we do over and over again can become routine, something we just do without paying too much attention.

       But we can never let the Mass become routine for us. We need to love the Eucharist! We need to live the holy Mass! Our Christian life, our whole life, must be centered in the Eucharist.

        That is why this new translation is such a wonderful gift. It gives us the opportunity for a new Eucharistic catechesis. It gives us the chance to reflect more deeply on the meaning of our worship - on what we do when we celebrate the Eucharist, and why.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From Sept 4th, 2011 Bulletin)

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
                      - Mt 18:20

Christ Connection and Correction
Most of our passage from the gospel this weekend focuses on fraternal correction, how to correct one another in charity and truth, which can be very difficult to practice. The passage closes however with a more familiar verse about where ‘two or three are gathered’.  The truth of Christ’s presence in the midst of Christians sheds light on his instruction about how to correct one another. Our reality as Christians is that we are bonded by truth and that truth is Christ Himself. This runs contrary to the prevailing culture, which says that ‘truth’ is relative, that is, it changes from person to person.

This relativism is totally contrary to reason, that gift by which we discern what is true and what is false. If I say, for example, that ‘God exists’. Another might say, ‘He may for you, but not for me.’ Well, I trust the person believes this and is being honest, but either God does exist as we believe or He doesn’t. There can’t be two different objective alternatives to this question.  Either our faith is accurate or a complete sham.

This truth applies to relations between persons as well. Either something is charitable or it is not. Either something is just or it is not. Discerning these things is not always easy, but Christ gives us excellent guidelines for doing this. There is a collective wisdom in judging things and behavior. Many of these principles have been clarified by Catholic moral and ethical teaching. Other situations require a hands-on discernment by the Body of Christ.

Preserving the truth between us takes great charity and humility on everyone’s part. It stretches us like the cross Jesus asks us to carry and even be crucified on. This is no small work; it is the great work of Christ. We must take great care in our relationships with one another to pursue the truth without judgment and with determination. The health of this Body of Christ depends on each member doing his or her part. Realizing that none of us is perfect, we need to have compassion on and patience with one another. When we do this, Christ is present.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From August 28th, 2011 Bulletin)

Pope Benedict Asks Young People to Love the Church!

I wanted to pass on to you parts of Pope Benedict’s homily to more than one million youth gathered last weekend in Madrid, Spain.  The Holy Father said,

Dear Young People,

In this celebration of the Eucharist we have reached the high point of this World Youth Day. Seeing you here, gathered in such great numbers from all parts of the world, fills my heart with joy. I think of the special love with which Jesus is looking upon you. Yes, the Lord loves you and calls you his friends (cf. Jn 15:15). He goes out to meet you and he wants to accompany you on your journey, to open the door to a life of fulfillment and to give you a share in his own closeness to the Father. For our part, we have come to know the immensity of his love and we want to respond generously to his love by sharing with others the joy we have received…

Dear young people, today Christ is asking you the same question which he asked the Apostles: “Who do you say that I am?” Respond to him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own. Say to him: “Jesus, I know that you are the Son of God, who have given your life for me. I want to follow you faithfully and to be led by your word. You know me and you love me. I place my trust in you and I put my whole life into your hands. I want you to be the power that strengthens me and the joy which never leaves me”.

Jesus responds to Peter’s confession by speaking of the Church: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church”. What do these words mean? Jesus builds the Church on the rock of the faith of Peter, who confesses that Christ is God. 

The Church, then, is not simply a human institution, like any other. Rather, she is closely joined to God. Christ himself speaks of her as “his” Church. Christ cannot be separated from the Church any more than the head can be separated from the body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12). The Church does not draw her life from herself, but from the Lord.

Dear young friends, … Make Christ, the Son of God, the centre of your life. But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own. Anyone who would be tempted to do so “on his own”, or to approach the life of faith with that kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.

Having faith means drawing support from the faith of your brothers and sisters, even as your own faith serves as a support for the faith of others. I ask you, dear friends, to love the Church which brought you to birth in the faith, which helped you to grow in the knowledge of Christ and which led you to discover the beauty of his love. Growing in friendship with Christ necessarily means recognizing the importance of joyful participation in the life of your parishes, communities and movements, as well as the celebration of Sunday Mass, frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the cultivation of personal prayer and meditation on God’s word. Friendship with Jesus will also lead you to bear witness to the faith wherever you are, even when it meets with rejection or indifference. We cannot encounter Christ and not want to make him known to others. So do not keep Christ to yourselves! Share with others the joy of your faith. The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God. I think that the presence here of so many young people, coming from all over the world, is a wonderful proof of the fruitfulness of Christ’s command to the Church: “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). You too have been given the extraordinary task of being disciples and missionaries of Christ in other lands and countries filled with young people who are looking for something greater and, because their heart tells them that more authentic values do exist, they do not let themselves be seduced by the empty promises of a lifestyle which has no room for God.

Dear young people, I pray for you with heartfelt affection. I commend all of you to the Virgin Mary and I ask her to accompany you always by her maternal intercession and to teach you how to remain faithful to God’s word. I ask you to pray for the Pope, so that, as the Successor of Peter, he may always confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith. May all of us in the Church, pastors and faithful alike, draw closer to the Lord each day. May we grow in holiness of life and be effective witnesses to the truth that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God, the Savior of all mankind and the living source of our hope. Amen.                       

                                                                                                                                                                                                 - Benedict XVI at the beginning of the Eucharistic Celebration, Cuatro

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From August 21, 2011 Bulletin)

Who do you say I am?

Jesus asks the ultimate question of his Apostles in our Gospel today. It is a question that reverberates throughout history and confronts every human soul with the fact of our faith or lack thereof. What do we believe about Jesus Christ? It is the most critical aspect of our lives. This is not to make anyone panic for lack of faith. Of the twelve Apostles only one, Peter, was able to annunciate his belief that Jesus was truly “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” We perhaps, like the other Apostles, might be hesitant or not sure of what we believe. Jesus did not reject them, nor does he reject us.

Peter’s faith and proclamation made him Jesus’ rock upon which he would build His Church. It is this Church that has handed on the faith through the centuries. Like the first California winegrowers who brought quality grapevines from Europe, the Church continues to produce the same pure faith in souls that receive it. Like good wine, it can even grow richer with age. We cling to this vine and ask God to enrich us as heirs to a promise made to Peter: that while our faith will be tested, “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”

Faith Prevails

I’ve finished two books lately on the incredible story of the missionaries and Japanese Christians around Nagasaki. The first book I finished was, “Bells of Nagasaki”, the testimony of Dr. Taguchi Nagai, a Catholic doctor who was in Nagasaki when the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb there. It speaks both of the horrific destruction of human life that took place, along with Nagai’s ability to forgive and even see God’s providence in guiding the bomb over the Catholic Cathedral in his village of Urakami, the primary community of Christians in Japan. As he said in his funeral address for 8000 Catholics who died in the bombing:

…the American pilots did not aim at Urakami. It was the providence of God that carried the bomb to that destination. 

Is there not a profound relationship between the destruction of Nagasaki and the end of the war? Nagasaki, the only holy place in all Japan- was it not chosen as a victim, a pure lamb, to be slaughtered and burned on the altar of sacrifice to expiate the sins committed by humanity in the Second World War?

St. Paul said in Romans, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)

A second book just finished is, “The Twenty-Six Martyrs of Nagasaki” by Diego Yuuki, S.J. This is the story of the ancestors of the Japanese Catholics first evangelized by St. Francis Xavier, but then facing a terrible persecution from 1597 until the mid 19th Century. (St. Francis Xavier landed in Japan on August 15th of1549, the Feast of the Assumption, the day I’m writing this article!) These martyrs are celebrated as St. Paul Miki and Companions. Included in the 26 were both Franciscans and Jesuits along with some lay associates. Fray Pedro (Peter) Bautista proclaims the faith that motivated the apostles, “I firmly believe that to die for Christ is God’s greatest gift, and I hope that He will not take this great good from us. O, how happy we are to have come to Japan if we receive this blessing! What a wonderful way to begin the year!” (p.30)

A 14yr old, Thomas Kozaki, was martyred along with the religious. His faith matched their experience. In a letter to his parents he writes,

Although you need the priests, if you are deeply sorry for your sins, and have much devotion at the hour of your death, and if you remember and acknowledge the many blessings of Jesus Christ, then you will be saved. And bear in mind that everyone in this world has to come to an end, and so strive so that you will not lose the happiness of heaven. Whatever men may impose on you, try to have patience and show much charity for everyone. (p.55) 

Prophetic words, as soon Japan would be without priests for 250 years. But the Catholic Christians would continue to baptize and pray to the living God.

Considered the best preacher in Japan, brother Paul Miki used every chance he could to draw others to Christ. From his cross (the 26 were crucified), he proclaims:

I am not from the Philippines (where some foreign missionaries were from), I am a Japanese, and a Jesuit Brother. I have not committed any crime, but die only for having preached the religion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I greatly rejoice to die for this cause; for me this is a great blessing that the Lord grants me. I am at the hour when you may believe that I won’t lie to you, and I guarantee and affirm that there is no other way to salvation except by the Christian path. (p.77)

We are challenged by such faith and courage to listen to Jesus’ question once more, “Who do you say that I am?”

Come to the Rock of Faith
If our faith is growing, the answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” will be slightly different each time because as we grow in our knowledge and relationship with God, the deepening effect will color our response. Eventually, we get to the point when God is so vast and yet so personal we can hardly find words for a heart so full of love. Our vocabulary is too puny, our words too vague to adequately describe who our wondrous God is to us. Would you like to explore a deeper experience of God? If you are already Catholic but would like to learn with others wishing to join the Catholic Church, contact cyndebosshart@gmail.com or 253-631-1940, x104 for more information.  Our next RCIA Information Night is next Thursday, September 1 at 7:00 PM in the Outreach Annex.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From August 14th, 2011 Bulletin)

“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!” - Mt 15:22

Here, in this simple plea of the Canaanite woman, is a prayer that we should all be familiar with. It is one of the sources of the ‘Jesus Prayer’, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” This is a recipe for successful prayer, knowledge of self and knowledge of God. The one who can admit his or her need is more than half way home. Faith tells us who can solve our need. When we cry out to Jesus, He comes. In fact, He is already there; otherwise we would not have the grace to cry out.

To know and admit our need should not make us feel ashamed in front of others. We are all weak sinners. We might feel shame in relation to God, but this should not discourage us from seeking Him. Jesus wants to free us from shame. It is destructive and debilitating. He is all-merciful and does not desire that we shrink back in some false humility. Often I hear, “I am too unworthy” to do this or that. “Yes” I say, “and so am I. We are all unworthy. That’s why we say in the Mass, ‘Lord, I am unworthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.’”

‘Unworthy’ is not a problem for God. Stubborn refusal to accept His mercy is, however, a serious problem. It can even lead to final obstinacy, which some have said is the ‘sin against the Holy Spirit’. This means that one does not recognize that Jesus has the power to forgive any sin, which is at the same time a failure to recognize and accept His Divinity. St. Therese said that even if she had committed the most grievous sin, she would not hesitate to run and jump into the Father’s lap. Let us pray for that grace to always run to His mercy without hesitation.

Rectory Update

The Interim Priests Residence has seen some changes with Fr. Reynaldo Yu moving in. He would be considered “Priest in Residence,” meaning that his assignment is elsewhere though he resides at St. Stephen’s. While Fr. Yu has been substituting around the Archdiocese, he has helped out in many ways here at St. Stephen’s as well. Cliff Macaraeg, our summer seminarian, was also residing here until this past week. Cliff is off to World Youth Day in Spain, which begins on August 16. With other priest guests coming and going, I moved the chapel out of the fourth bedroom and into the dining room. Thank you, Jesus, for being flexible!

The influx of residents makes a review of the Joint Oversight Committee’s Recommendations a topic for future discussion. I hope to share more fully in a future column their recommendations, which included waiting on building a new rectory as the recent recession took hold. The instability of the economy continues to make building a serious challenge. Fortunately, our parish has been healthy financially and has decreased our debt to below $700,000. In the meantime, the Interim Priests Residence continues to be a huge blessing for me and the other clerics who have benefited from being so close to the Church. Thank you for your generosity in providing such a wonderful dwelling.

The New Roman Missal Translation is Coming

As you may have read, there is a new translation of our Mass texts that will be implemented on the First Sunday of Advent this year (November 27, 2011). It will involve several changes, some simple and easy, some a little more challenging. There will be updates appearing in the bulletin that will describe these in detail. We are also free to begin some of the sung parts on September 1, including the Gloria, the Sanctus (Holy, Holy), and the Memorial Acclamation. Please take time to study these changes (see website below). And beginning in the fall, we will take time during the Mass to learn these together.

Change can be difficult, but we continue to be an organic, living Church, which changes over time, but remains true to Herself. I love the analogy of our Sequoia tree north of the Outreach Annex. It continues to grow, to change, to put out new needles, branches, and bark, but we would say it is the same tree that it was yesterday or last year. The changes in the Mass will stretch us individually and as a community; our unity of heart and mind may be tested, but I believe that together we can grow in understanding the beauty and power of the Mass as we study more closely the language we use to praise Our Lord. (Changes to the people’s parts can be viewed at http://old.usccb.org/romanmissal/samples-people.shtml).

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